Sixteen Bars, in partnership with DITO: Bahay ng Sining, presents SHOW OFF Broadway Open Mic: Songs and Scenes. Enjoy a night of songs and scenes from Broadway musicals. Take the stage. Simply bring your music sheet and hand it to our pianist and sing your heart out. We had it at the reprise, we’ll reprise it again.
There will be games throughout the program so be ready to take home prizes. Let’s make it bigger. This SHOW OFF, the mic is now open to Monologues and scenes! Register a slot for a scene and take your moment on the stage!
Want to get that standing ovation? Feel free to dress up for the part! what can possibly be more fun than pulling an all out for your dream role? There’s more. DITO’s menu is now inspired by Broadway! Come to the open mic to taste some of your favorite musicals!
Join Sixteen Bars on July 25, 2015 (Saturday), from 7:00 -11:00 p.m. at DITO: Bahay ng Sining located at J. Molina Street, 1807, Marikina City. Your Php 150.00 comes with a free drink and a slot for a song or scene. Registration starts at 6 P.M.
Last Saturday, the Philippines was one with the world as it celebrated Pride Month through the Pride March. It’s been 21 years since our community has recognized the need to fight for love, equality, and freedom. The historical 21st Pride in Luneta gathered about 2,000 people. The Philippines also celebrated along with the US’ triumph over having same-sex marriage legalized in all 50 states.
Whatever successes or endeavors – no matter how little or grand – our countries have achieved altogether are proof of how far we have come and how farther we are willing to go. Yet the gap remains – some void that keeps us from understanding the basics of RESPECT. Marginalized members of the society remain pressured by the dictates of society, reducing them to confused individuals who are forced to become someone they’re not.
Haters troll across all forms of media. Every day, others have to live their lives being named faggot, immoral, etc. Some do not know how impactful words can be, most especially when aimed mindlessly at those who are already finding it difficult to be themselves. Our society finds it so daunting a task to openly talk about.
Sadly, there are people who think being gay is a disease. Let’s make the conversation even more uncomfortable by exposing the other elephant in the room. Let’s talk about HIV/AIDS.
According World Health Organization (WHO), the HIV/AIDS statistics in the Philippines has significantly augmented from 1 (2008) to 22 (2015) newly diagnosed HIV cases per day in a span of just 7 years. The rise in HIV cases is now the fastest in Asia and among the fastest worldwide.
At the rate it’s going, the numbers could only increase in the next few years. But more than the rise in statistics, how much does our country know about this disease? Aren’t these numbers enough to scare the hell out us, of our government?
Actors’ Actor, Inc. and The Necessary Theatre as they boldly present The Normal Heart for the very first time in the Philippine shores. Dubbed as The Normal Heart Manila, I’m certain it’s bound to make waves.
The Normal Heart is a critically acclaimed masterpiece of playwright and activist Larry Kramer, who initially wrote this as a result of his frustration over New York City’s indifference to the rise of a then unknown disease that was ravaging gay men in the 1980s. A straight play that is mainly autobiographical in nature, the plot takes us to New York City at a time HIV/AIDS was still a disease many ignorantly dismissed as “gay disease.”
The first minute into the story is highly contagious. So be warned. Kramer brilliantly engineered it to bring you to the edge of your seat. The Normal Heart revolves around an angry Jewish-American writer, gay activist, and loudmouth Ned Weeks (played by Bart Guingona, also the director) who – through the expertise of polio-stricken Dr. Emma Brookner (played Roselyn Perez) – learns about the outbreak and decides to form a crisis organization in an effort to stop the spread of the mysterious disease.
His lawyer brother Ben Weeks (played by Richard Cunanan) passively supports his brother’s advocacy but later on argues with him due to his unwillingness to understand. The story unfolds as Ned crosses paths with New York Times writer Felix Turner (Topper Fabregas). The two will fall in love.
He also forms a volunteer organization with Bruce Niles (TJ Trinidad), Tommy Boatwright (Red Concepcion), Mickey Marcus (Nor Domingo), and Craig Donner [also Hiram Keebler and Grady] (Jef Flores) on board. But years would pass and more deaths plague the community; the illness was already spreading like wildfire, and their much-awaited meeting with Mayor Ed Koch has not seen the light of day…
The piece to this day bleeds with so much insight that yearns to be heard and understood. The Normal Heart is unafraid to expose the ironies of reality, and it needed only eight cast members to get the message across effectively. Whatever the simple setup offered, the cast made up for it. But a material as rich as this did not need a grand stage in the first place.
Each of the characters was relatable and real. The major conflict areas were tucked in between the different relationships Ned had with the characters, which also means a tough acting challenge awaits Guingona. He takes on an energetic role of a gay activist and writer, brother, a lover, a leader, and a 24/7 loudmouth.
Accept me as your healthy equal, your brother.
His relationship with his brother Ben, whom Cunanan played so effortlessly, revealed a brother’s refusal to accept Ned for who he is, thereby hindering him from understanding how strongly Ned feels about his advocacy. While Ben expresses some support in the beginning, t would later on be clearer that he is a homophobe himself.
His relationship, however, with the members of the volunteer crisis organization is more of antagonistic. Known as the bad cop of the organization, his tactless approach, though pure and thought-provoking, is greatly misunderstood, and the rest of the group seem to feel he oftentimes presses the wrong buttons.
Bruce Niles (TV actor TJ Trinidad) is the exact opposite of Ned Weeks. A closeted gay, his leadership decisions lack the conviction it needs to get the advocacy across. He continues to live in fear of prejudice and rejection. Tommy Boatwright, and Mickey Marcus had their fair share of unforgettable moments, too, as they struggled dealing with the always clashing Ned and Bruce. Also noteworthy is Jef Flores as he takes on three roles. Their intense arguments reveal how they confront the issue, given their different personalities and attitude.
Ned’s relationship Dr. Emma Brookner was intellectual in nature. Both knew something had to be done. And they took it upon themselves to go beyond their call of duty. Perez as Brookner was instantly a favorite character of mine. Despite her physical limitations due to her disability, she ironically stands for what she believes in and speaks against the US government for their refusing to allocate resources for research on the disease.
But wait, there’s also an element of romance amidst the heavily infused plot. Topper Fabregas gives life to Ned Weeks’ lover Felix Turner, who works for the New York Times. They have cheesy moments and they would go on to share their dreams and plans. Ned and Felix’s banters were Kramer’s clever depiction of gays at that time.
Again, these rosy scenes wouldn’t last for long. As Felix falls ill, we witness the deterioration of his body, and the crumbling of his very spirit. Several noteworthy scenes between the two broke my heart. Especially when Felix shows how much he loves Ned ’til the very end. The ending was painful to watch.
The pain was too sharp, and too deeply felt. And the insights were hard-hitting and that Kramer’s world in 1980s is very much real elsewhere in the world. History has repeated itself. Fast track to 2015, and this is still very much the reality in the Philippines.
Instant takeaways? Unsettled differences in attitude greatly impacts the accomplishment of a shared goal, no matter how noble it may be. Oftentimes, friends and families find it so difficult to understand and accept you. Sadly, even the more experienced, passionate doctors are not given the opportunity to put their expertise to use because of the lack of funding for research. Lastly, people have no access to the healthcare that they need.
We don’t need to wait for another Ned Weeks to effect such change. If the story reveals a failure of a worthy cause, may this autobiographical account emphasize history is a lesson. The material gives it to you raw, with the intent to pierce your heart and soul. There’s a Ned Weeks in each and everyone of us, struggling to be heard every day. We cannot continue being indifferent about HIV/AIDS, about anything that concerns whether individually or collectively.
Awareness is the first crucial step to achieving the understanding and acceptance that we so yearn for. While judgement, fear and abound, while there are dying AIDS victims who amid their dire, desperate situation cannot even convince the government to intensify efforts to combat the disease.
This material deserves to be seen. But it will only run five shows. I hope they extend it so it reaches out to bigger audiences.
Because at the end of the day, our brothers and sisters who have fallen ill to this disease deserve to be understood and accepted. They deserve to be heard. They deserve to be healed. Above all, they deserve to be loved.
It’s a war where love wins.
Don’t miss its limited runs from July 3-5, 2015 (Friday, 8 P.M. | Saturday & Sunday, 3:30 P.M. And 8 P.M.) at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, 4th Floor, RCBC Plaza, Makati, Philippines. Tickets are available via Ticketworld: http://www.ticketworld.com.ph.
Acknowledging the production team: Coco Anne and Baby Imperial (set design), Don Taduran, Mark Philipp Espina (video projections), Jethro Joaquin (sound design), Meliton Roxas (lighting design), and Dodo Lim (producer).
Words by Helen de Castro | Photos by Reverb Manila
Losing a loved one is heartbreaking. I once was told that the experience of losing a close relative to the unforgiving arms of death feels weird, surreal. But contemplating on words once spoken and reliving memories over and over again is heartwrenching. This was the feat bravely faced by artists close to Maningning Miclat, the multilingual poet and visual artist who passed away at the tender age of 28. I could describe Ginugunita Kita as a close and intimate gathering at the Aldaba Hall in U.P. Diliman. A celebration of the short but meaningful life of Maningning that explored and internalized her literary works from the book Voice from the Underworld. The stage employed a simple set-up – a chair on the left that was occupied by the soulful cellist, Patrick Espanto; a piano on the right, whose keys were graced by the acclaimed composer, Jesse Lucas; and in the middle, a chair for singer-actor Banaue Miclat-Janssen, Maningning’s younger sister. More than a concert, the setting reminded me of a warm family gathering where members would sit around the living room, exchanging stories on how Maningning has touched each of their lives. In between one of the songs, Banaue shared how people responded to her sister’s book Voice from the Underworld, with most of them interpreting it as if it were Maningning’s final messages. The younger sister took their remarks as they were, opened the book once and never read it again. It wasn’t until 15 years later, as she prepared for that night’s performance, had she been compelled to read it again. She realized that Ningning’s poems weren’t at all goodbyes, rather a recounting of her life journey. Ginugunita Kita started when Jesse Lucas read Maningning’s book. Struck with inspiration, he sought permission from her family if he could put music to the poet’s words. Describing her works as visually rich, it was incredibly easy for him to connect with them.
Jesse Lucas: “The poems of Maningning Miclat is almost melodious that I can hear the music through the images used in poetry”.
One could not help but wonder about Banaue, the younger sister’s, journey in this whole creative process. The actress acknowledged director Roeder Camañag’s guidance.
Banaue Miclat-Janssen: From the beginning, I was scared that I might go to a dark place in the process of the journey, and he (Camañag) always guided me, showed me another way of looking at things na ‘oo nga no, it makes more sense.’
The performance featured a number of Maningning’s poems: Ginugunita Kita, Tawag, Kulay sa Bato, Ang Naliligaw, Duet (Rizal at Bracken) – where Banaue sang alongside singer-actor Al Gatmaitan; A Stare, which was elegantly interpreted by Delphine Buencamino through dance; Verses #2; and To Catch a Second and Turn it To Forever.
Of all the songs performed that night, Banaue said that it was Verses # 2 that made her see Maningning not only as an artist but as her sister. She shared that it reminded her of the day she passed away. Before she left for FEU that morning, Maningning kissed her and said, “I love you, Wei. Ok na ako.”
Banaue Miclat-Janssen: “With Verses, I will always, always see that. I understood what that meant with that song. Ok na talaga siya.”
There was not a single hint of tension during the whole performance. It was relaxing, comforting, nostalgic even. Ginugunita Kita is described as a healing process and a ‘rite of passage’ as each accepted that their loved one, who once graced this earth to impart so much wisdom even at a very young age, is now at peace. And they are left here to celebrate and keep her legacy alive. Pain – whether caused by death, a heartbreak, or a seemingly impossible challenge – is processed differently by each individual. We all have unique styles of coping. Ultimately, it is how we respond to it. We have two choices when confronted with pain: To allow it to destroy us or to get up and create something worthwhile, fueled by that intense emotion. In Ginugunita Kita, we saw how Maningning’s family and friends chose the latter. Through the collaborative efforts of these renowned artists, they have created something beautiful out of it. I was deeply moved by what I had witnessed that night. It was as if the whole theater was engulfed with so much love and fond memories. And though I have only encountered Maningning through poetry classes back in college or in conversations with friends, that night gave me the opportunity to experience the poet beyond her written words. She was no longer just a byline, or a Filipino painter, or the professor who taught in FEU. That night, she simply became a person. Relatable, real, someone who also went through the ordinary highs and lows of human emotions – it was her dedication to her life’s work that put her high up on a pedestal. I could not fully explain here the warmth and intimacy of that night’s experience. Even the photos stored in my phone could not give it justice. It is one of those performances that could not be described by words, but could only be truly enjoyed and appreciated if you are there. It is not quite possible to relive that night’s experience. So in Maningning’s words, I conclude:
So grant me another second
I will catch up with it
I will lock it in my heart
And turn it to forever.
An excerpt from To Catch a Second and Turn it to Forever
There will be a rerun of the performance on July, which will feature more songs (including a Chinese poem), and we’re all hopeful that a CD compilation of the songs will be available by then.